First, MSNBC fired a left-wing commentator over an eight-year-old tweet the pundit said was a joke but which a far-right activist said showed insensitivity about rape.
Then a small ruckus ensued: Over the firing. Over the tweet. Over MSNBC's caving to the right-wing guy's complaint about the tweet.
On Thursday, the saga took another sharp turn: MSNBC reversed itself and hired back the lefty guy, Sam Seder, whom it had dismissed earlier in the week amid a pressure campaign from conservative conspiracy theorist and gadfly Mike Cernovich.
The Seder-Cernovich dust-up was relatively trivial in itself but perhaps says something about the fraught politics of the moment. That is, how a campaign emanating from the fringe right prompted a news-and-commentary organization with a liberal bent to overreact and shut down one of its own pundits over a comment the media bosses now admit they probably misunderstood.
MSNBC told Seder — a comedian and political pundit — earlier this week that his services would no longer be necessary after Cernovich whipped up outrage over Seder's tweet from 2009 about controversial film director Roman Polanski.
Seder said the tweet was a satirical comment about liberals who were defending Polanski over his conviction in 1978 for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl. "Don't care re Polanski," he wrote, "but I hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/a great sense of mise en scene."
MSNBC, though, initially bought into Cernovich's logic that Seder had made a reprehensible joke about sexual assault and decided not to renew his appearance contract after it expires in February.
The decision represented an initial victory for Cernovich, who promoted the discredited "Pizzagate" conspiracy against Hillary Clinton and has himself called date rape a fiction perpetrated by liberals.
But after Seder's firing stirred up a liberal backlash, including criticism from showbiz figures such as comedian Sarah Silverman, MSNBC reconsidered.
"Sometimes you get one wrong, and that's what happened here," the network's president, Phil Griffin, said in a statement Thursday. "We made our initial decision for the right reasons — because we don't consider rape to be a funny topic to be joked about. But we heard the feedback, and we understand the point Sam was trying to make in that tweet was in line with our values, even though the language was not. Sam will be welcome on our air going forward."
Seder praised MSNBC's "thoughtful reconsideration and willingness to understand the cynical motives of those who intentionally misrepresented my tweet for their own toxic political purposes."
Cernovich did not respond to a request for comment.